Hanging around the area where the tenders pull up, unlike at most tender docks, is quite enjoyable. A good place to get your bearings is the tourist office, where you can pick up pamphlets or maps and ask the English-speaking representatives about bus schedules. It is located in the old port at quai Jean Jaures, a few steps from the popular Senequier cafe, with its distinctive red chairs and awning. The tourist office is open every day except Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Nearby, street vendors sell paintings, jewelry and maritime baubles. And if nothing else, you can eyeball the too-fabulous yachts while waiting for the tender to bring you back to your ship.
This is an ideal small town in which to wander and amble. You can window shop, admire the gardens, gawk at the exquisite multimillion-dollar yachts or sip a cafe au lait or fine red wine. Charming little streets and alleyways emerge onto breezy squares. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, there's an open market at Place des Lices, the main square; during the rest of the tourist season, from May through most of September, there are street musicians, vendors and locals playing boules or bocce.
Climb the hill to this ancient fortress above so-called "Millionaires' Bay." A maritime history museum, five years in the making, made its debut there in 2013. It's located in a dungeon and documents the daily lives of the men and women who, over the centuries, shaped the Saint-Tropez of today. It is closed on Tuesdays. Even if you don't go in, it's the best spot in town for photo opportunities.
Musee de l'Annonciade:
The building for this museum is a chapel dating to the 16th century; it was converted in the 1950's to a museum and became the pride of Saint-Tropez. Through an aggressive acquisition program, the museum now features works from an array of French artists including Seurat, Dufy, Braque, Signac and Matisse. The paintings represent, for the most part, the Pointillist, Fauvist and Nabist periods. (Place Grammont, The Port; open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
Maison des Papillons:
Just off the central rue Clemenceau is this little house transformed into a butterfly museum. The attraction contains more than 4,500 specimens (dead, not alive) collected by the proprietor, Danny Lartigue, who guides you through the exhibit. Look for the very rare Black Apollo of Mercantour. (9 rue Etienne Berny; open every afternoon except Sundays from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., April 1 to October 30)Beaches:
You can walk to the beaches near town, although they are not the nicest. Plage de la Bouillabaisse
is the closest, about a mile from the tender dock along the seafront road. There are a couple of nice beachfront restaurants for lunch there, including Bouillabaisse and Golfe Azure. Farther out, Baie de Pampelonne
is where you want to go beaching, as this is what Saint-Tropez is all about: beautiful people hanging out in the sun. Located south of town, closer to the village of Ramatuelle, some of the beaches and beach clubs there are quite ritzy. The most popular is Tahiti Beach, named by Forbes magazine as the best topless beach in the world. Beware: You'll see little if any clothing, so if you can't cope, don't go. It's only about seven miles away, but transportation is difficult to find. You can take a cab or get a bus schedule from the tourist office, but most people recommend you rent a scooter for the day.
For just a few sous
(French coins), you can take a narrated one-hour boat excursion with Transports Maritimes Tropeziens
around the Saint-Tropez area. As you weave around the yachts at anchor, you'll see the Citadelle, the maritime cemetery, old Saint-Tropez (La Ponche) and the Bay of Canebiers, plus other sites as determined by the master -- who will also point out the yachts and villas of celebrities. (Old Port; 04-94-55-09-92)
Known as the Venice of the Cote d'Azur, this little port town not far from Saint-Tropez is worth a visit. The actual town of Port-Grimaud is a 60-year-old French-style planned community, where Provencal houses are built on canals and yachts are moored nearby. But walk a ways into the hills above this new town, and you will find a medieval village complete with a castle and fairy bridge. Really ... it's called Fairy Bridge! Les Bateaux Verts
runs a water shuttle from Saint-Tropez to Port-Grimaud (04-94-49-29-39).
If you aren't venturing out of Saint-Tropez, walking is your best transportation option. The town is a delight for strolling; hours can pass as you go from shop to shop, gawk at the yachts, sit in leafy squares or sip a cafe au lait. A couple of beaches are within (long) walking distance, or you can take a cab. A 10 percent gratuity is typical for taxi rides. Some cabs accept U.S. dollars if arrangements are made in advance. Taxis are not abundant, but they do troll the seafront street for fares.
The city has a bus system, but most buses and their routes are not clearly marked; most go outside the city rather than serve a route within it. You can pick up a schedule at the tourist office.
The area right around Saint-Tropez is fairly flat, so if you feel ambitious, you can rent a bicycle or Honda scooter for the day at Holiday Bikes (14 avenue du General Leclerc; 04-94-97-09-39). If you're planning to travel into the hills surrounding the town or as far away as the beaches at St. Maximes, a car rental might be the best option: Locazur is a local agency (9 ZA Saint-Claude Route des Plages; 04-94-97-57-85) or you can book in advance through Hertz or Avis.
Wining and dining is a major focus of the French, and this region in particular is known for its locally produced rose wines and fresh fish. Popular dishes include bouillabaisse, salad Nicoise and ratatouille, a tomato-based vegetable accompaniment. Lunch is typically served from noon to 2:30 p.m. A new craze: Ice Tropez, a sparkling cocktail made with wine flavored with nectarine blossoms. Generally, a service tip is included in the bill. However, it is customary to leave a few coins.
La Boite a Sardines: This cute little bistro located about halfway between the port area and the Citadelle serves Marseillaise-style food, very Provencal in flavor and not terribly fussy with cream sauces. Fresh, regional food and fish are the specialties; there's a quite affordable fixed-price lunch menu. (3 rue Saint Jean; 04-94-56-48-08)
L'Olivier: This gorgeous restaurant is located in the small, tony hotel La Bastide de Saint-Tropez, in the hills above the gulf. It is a budget buster but offers up a memorable taste of the finest Provencal cuisine. Specialties include duck fois gras on two cushions, roasted monkfish and lobster ravioli. There's a costly fixed-price lunch menu, but it's worth the euros to sit under the ancient olive trees, around the pool or inside the glass-domed conservatory and realize that you, too, are one of the beautiful people. (Route des Carles; 04-94-55-82-55)
Sous le Soleil: Playing on the name of a popular and long-running television show in France, this little bistro is located in the new port, just to the right of where the tender drops you off. It serves simple fare: grilled fish and meats and huge salads. (6 quai de l'epi, Nouveau Port; 04-94-97-53-90)
Le Cochon du Mer: Located just at the edge of the new port, not far from the tender dock, this seaside cafe specializes in Provencal and Marseillaise cooking: lots of simply prepared fresh seafood with Mediterranean ingredients. We just love the name of the place, which means "Pig of the Sea." Pricing is a la carte. (1 quai de l'Epi; 04-94-97-46-00)
Where You're Docked
Saint-Tropez is a tender port. Tenders arrive in the center of town near the yachts, restaurants, shops and open-air vendors.
Watch Out For
Saint-Tropez is a pretty clean, safe place. The biggest danger during the daytime is that you might get gouged by an unscrupulous cab driver. Make sure the meter is running, and the cab should also be clearly marked with its number. If you have any doubts, wait for another.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the euro. For up-to-the-minute conversion rates, check www.xe.com
. There are several banks and ATM's in the main area of town and along the sea wall adjacent to the yachts. A "Bureau de Change" (where you can exchange dollars for euros and cash traveler's checks) is located at 1 rue Francois Sibill, which is also near the yacht harbor; it charges a commission for each transaction.
French is the local tongue, but English, Italian and German are widely spoken in the tourist areas.
Sandals "Tropeziennes," specifically from Atelier Rondini (18 rue G. Clemenceau; 04-94-97-19-55) or K. Jacques (25 rue Allard and 16 rue Seillon; 04-94-97-41-50). Originally inspired by the sandals worn by Roman soldiers, they are handmade, prized and precious. Rondini has been around since 1927 (the store is on its third generation of family artisans) and K. Jacques has served the "beautiful people" as well as locals since 1933. Other locally produced items include perfume, pottery, olive wood products and paintings and clothing of Provencal fabric. Notably, all of the global luxury brands have shops in Saint-Tropez, and in summer, many of the top companies test their new lines in pop-up stores.